TUCSON, Ariz., Aug. 8, 2003 – SCI, the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide, applauds Ann M. Veneman, Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, for announcing this afternoon that “USDA will no longer prohibit the importation of hunter-harvested wild ruminant products intended for personal use and it will begin to accept applications for import permits for certain products from Canada.” For months, SCI representatives have been working with government officials to get the ban on hunted game meat lifted. Saying USDA experts have thoroughly reviewed the scientific evidence, which “indicates no measurable risk to public health,” Secretary Veneman called for international dialogue to develop a practical, risk-based approach to trade. “This is great news,” said SCI President Gary Bogner. “The USDA has heard the concerns of North America’s hunting community and the advice of wildlife biologists. It has completed exhaustive research and acted both thoughtfully and swiftly.”

According to the USDA, hunters will need a “Veterinary Services Special Permit for the Importation of Hunter-Harvested Wild Ruminant Meat,” along with a valid Canadian export certificate for game meat, or a copy of a valid hunting license or valid hunting tag. The permit can be downloaded from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/issues/bse/bse.html or obtained by calling the APHIS National Center for Import and Export at 301-734-3277.

Merle Shepard, SCI’s Government Affairs Committee chairman, added, “Responsible and ethical hunting involves using as much of the harvested animal as possible. While the USDA’s original concerns for public safety in the US are understandable, blocking the lawfully harvested importation of venison constitutes a tragic waste that thankfully has been avoided.”

The temporary ban was introduced as a safeguard on May 20, 2003, following discovery of a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalophy, or “mad cow disease” in a cow in Alberta, and affected hunter harvests even though there is no scientific evidence that BSE is readily transmissible to moose, deer, elk and other ungulates.

In July the USDA published a memo clarifying the ban it imposed soon after finding the Canadian case of mad cow disease. The memo stated that sportsman were able to bring their harvested and cleaned antlers, skull, plate, hide and cape back with them. However, at the time meat was still prohibited from importation.

Last year, SCI produced and distributed through state wildlife agencies and outdoor sports retail stores Facts About CWD, a brochure educating more than one million hunters about Chronic Wasting Disease.

Mad cow disease and CWD are both members of the same family of diseases that affects the brain and neural tissue of those afflicted. Both diseases are fatal to affected animals, and are caused by a mutated protein called a prion. While mad cow disease can jump species and affect humans, years of study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, many universities and about a dozen state public health agencies have found no evidence showing that CWD can be transferred to humans. For more information on CWD, go to www.sci-foundation.org/cwd.

Now that the USDA has acted, sportsmen and women are able to bring their lawfully harvested venison back home for their personal use. “With deer season just around the corner,” finished Bogner, “this decision is just in time.”

The USDA’s announcement says a rulemaking process will “begin immediately for the importation of live ruminants and ruminant products,” and notes that it will begin to accept applications for import permits for boneless sheep or goat meat from animals under 12 months of age; boneless bovine meat from cattle under 30 months of age; boneless veal from calves that were 36 weeks of age or younger at slaughter; fresh or frozen bovine liver; vaccines for veterinary medicine for non-ruminant use; and pet products and feed ingredients that contain processed animal protein and tallow of non-ruminant sources when produce in facilities with dedicated manufacturing lines.